Great win last night! Remember the times when games against Indiana were pretty much the highlights of the season. I hated their guts, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, Ugh....! They were a tough squad with good players, but they entered the stands and caused the infamous Palace Brawl. Of course no fan needs to throw a beer on some player's head, but in soccer certain players get thrown at with worse things and are similarly crazy in their minds. Don't believe??? Here's another example !
Alright, enough with crazy soccer footage. The Pacers have pretty much traded in the likes of Artest, Jackson and O'neal for a crazy high-flying white guy (Josh McRoberts) a crazy Eminem look-alike and a softer Center (Roy Hibbert). Summing this up, you cannot hate this team anymore, they are kind of likable actually.
Nonetheless, it feels pretty good to win again. After the Pistons last two disastrous performances they had a lot of bright spots in this game going into the All-Star break. I will especially look at Greg Monroe's improved helpside defense and great execution by Detroit down the stretch. They almost surrendered two leads at the end of the game, but the Pistons did a good job of protecting the paint and creating good shots, plus they kept their cool.
Greg Monroe's quick rotation
Last time, as some of you might recall, I blamed Greg Monroe for missing defensive rotations occasionally. It happens to rookies and it was not meant to degrade him or anything. Well, his learning curve is stellar and you will see it in this example.
This is a similar set-up to last time against the TrailBlazers. The Pacers' Darren Collison is holding the ball on the left wing and his center is coming over to set a screen. Ben Wallace decides to show, but Collison goes away from the screen straight towards the basket. Will Bynum does not realize in time what is happening and gets blown by. It happens to the best of us and Collison is a great player.
The area shown in red is marking the space Monroe has to cover when he realizes he has to come over.
Monroe's thinking process is rapidly becoming quicker, so his quick thinking enables him to come over in time to block the shot.
Of course, Darren Collison is not exactly Lamarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is way bigger! Collison is quicker though and I believe the space recovered by GM10 is enough that he could have taken a charge if he had wanted to. Great play by a great player. I like his abilities a lot already. If he continues to progress the way he does and inserting Jonas Jerebko next season, this could be an exciting starting line-up for the Pistons, featuring Jerebko and Monroe at Power Forward and Center!
Great defense does not equal great results
I thought about doing a frame-by-frame analysis on this one. I think this sequence is too long and I have two more coming, so you have to look at the video!
Let me walk you through this. The Pacers start out on the right wing. Collison gets a screen from Granger who sets a screen for McRoberts who receives the ball from Collison. So far it is just movement to make the defense tired. McRoberts (J-Mac) hands the ball off back to Granger who is supposed to be the primary option I would think. McRoberts sets a side screen and immediately rolls down to the basket. Ben Wallace, the great defender that he is, rotates perfectly and J-Mac cannot use his supreme athleticism to get a dunk.
Meanwhile, Ben Gordon does a great job of fighting the way bigger Roy Hibbert for position down low. He might not get perfect position, but then again he gives up well over 9 inches. He disturbs Hibbert enough so J-Mac does not think he has a window to pass and he the pass is denied. I personally think he could have hit the target, in a split-second situation of a game-deciding play, as a coach I would forgive him for wanting to make the best pass and not the first pass.
J-Mac instead throws the ball to the opposite side of the court into the hands of Collison. Collision makes the right decision and immediately starts penetrating blowing past Rodney Stuckey. But look who rotates over perfectly yet again! GREG MONROE! He blocks the shot with both and hands. Great defense so far by the Pistons! There is a loose ball and it touches several hands before it reaches Danny Granger's hands on the three-point line. Granger hits a heavily contested jumper going to the bank! Wanna how contested? Look at this screenshot!
If you would want your opponent to have a look, wouldn't it be this exact look? A contested, long three with the shot clock winding down and a hand right in his face?! Unfortunately, a great player hit a tough shot!
Detroit had an answer: Ben Gordon
What I especially liked last night and why I broke this down in more detail than usual is that Detroit kept its poise. They could have broken together after this possession. The usual events would have played out like this: Stuckey gets the ball, Stuckey runs a one-on-five fastbreak, Stuckey takes a highly contested lay-up, Stuckey misses, Indiana hits another three, Indiana wins.
This time the Pistons kept their cool and executed. Ben Gordon played during crunch time (oh what a rarity!) and it paid dividends. Stuckey dribbled the ball to the right wing.
He gets an on-ball screen set by Tay, he uses it. At the same time Ben Wallace and Greg Monroe set off-ball screens for Ben Gordon. Gordon curls off of the two screens and Stuckey does a great job of hitting him right in stride. Gordon takes the wide open jumper and it is Swish-City!
First play in OT
So, one could understand if the Pistons had let this one go. After all they played pretty well down the stretch and the Pacers hit a couple of lucky shots and somehow managed to get into overtime.
Overtime is a curious thing. You basically are where you started, the score is 0-0 or 104-104 for that matter. You could call it a five-minute mini-basketballgame. Often it is important how you start out in OT. Either you miss a shot or you make it and I would like to see a stat how often the team which scored the first basket in overtime ends up winning the entire game.
The Pistons came out to play. They got the ball and ran a nice play for Ben Gordon. Basketball is all about utilizing your players' biggest strengths and minimizing the impact of their weaknesses, a system which has been perfectly working for the San Antonio Spurs and Greg Popovich.
Gordon dribbles the ball up the court. Tayshaun is posting up, Ben Wallace is in the high-post and Monroe and Stuckey look to get out of the way. It's a nice set-up and Gordon enters the ball into Tay who is a little too far out since he couldn't hold his position.
Ben Wallace then sets a screen on Brandon Rush who gets caught by surprise a little bit, because Ben sets it into his back. Monroe and Stuckey have spaced the floor so the free-throw line area is not occupied at all. Wallace does a great job of setting the screen, this is a very underrated skill in basketball and, quite frankly, not a lot of players set great screens anymore. Ben Wallace would not have become an All-Time great if he didn't have some trick up his sleeve on offense. It might not get him great stats, but it gives Gordon an open jumper. Tayshaun lobs the ball to Ben Gordon who gets another wide open look.
You don't win games with one or two plays, but Detroit executed very well against the Pacers. There are cases in basketball, when a few unlucky bounces cause you to lose a game that you were supposed to win. The Pistons almost lost this one. Instead of slipping they decided to keep the composure and executed as well as they did.
Have a great All-Star break! Go Greg Monroe!